2023 Water Artisans of the Year Winners

Published on February 29, 2024

2023 Water Artisans of the Year composite graphic

Now in its eighth year, POND Trade magazine’s 2023 Water Artisans of the Year winners continue to captivate the industry by showcasing the best of the best water-feature projects around the globe on a level playing field, without corporate sponsorships or influence.

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2023 Water Artisans of the Year Winners

Highlights of this year’s contest include three first-time winners and two first-time runners-up, signaling growth in the popularity and reach of our contest. We’re also celebrating our third ever triple-crown winner, Bobby Kenyon of C.E. Pontz Sons, who took home first place in Fountains & Formal Features. That makes a record-setting seven placements for Kenyon and his team (three wins, four runners-up) — can you say, “wow?”

The category count shrank from five to four this year, further elevating the level of difficulty for our contestant pool. As in previous years, we collected project submissions and presented them to an independent judging panel with no brand names or contractors’ identities revealed. Meet our judges. We solicited entries in the four most popular categories from previous years — Best Pondless, Most Naturalistic, Best Project under $20,000, and
Best Fountains & Formal Features.

We required a $25 fee with every submission, which culminated in approximately $2,000 donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, an award-winning charity that provides cutting-edge treatment to children without requiring payment.

Winner: Best Fountains and Formal Features – Bobby Kenyon

Best formal features pond 2023 WATY Bobby Kenyon
Bobby Kenyon of C.E. Pontz Sons is the winner in the fountains and formal features category.
Bobby Kenyon

Bobby Kenyon of C.E. Pontz Sons in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, celebrates his third win in our contest. C.E. Pontz Sons has some of the most creative and well-trained employees in the landscape and outdoor living industries. When it comes to water features and outdoor living spaces, they pride themselves on being different, not your everyday, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter landscaper.

We hereby welcome Bobby Kenyon and C.E. Pontz Sons to the Triple Crown Club! They’re joining an elite group of water-feature artisans that includes Art of the Yard and Aquatic Edge Consulting.

“We are a tight-knit team who love what we do and take pride in the art we create,” Kenyon said.

This mammoth of a backyard renovation secured his first win in our formal category. The final project is akin to a personal event venue and includes two large patios that encompass a sprawling, bustling koi pond flush with vibrant aquatic plants.

A large, natural-stone bridge connects the patios and enables multiple viewpoints of the pond, which is home to multiple fish caves. Over one side of the pond looms a large, stacked-stone wall that helps to retain one of the two patio living areas.

Winner: Best Under $20k – Bradley Blocksom

Best under 20K water feature 2023 WATY Blocksom
The winner in the Under $20K category is Bradley Blocksom.
Bradley Blocksom

Bradley Blocksom is one of our youngest Water Artisans of the Year winners, having developed his talent and workmanship under his father, Dave Blocksom at Pondscapes of Charlotte. Bradley is an avid builder and designer and has his sights set on taking over the company when his father retires.

One of the most impressive talents of a gifted water artisan is the uncanny ability to re-engineer an environment through the imagination of a client. This backyard waterfall was built by first-time winner Bradley Blocksom (Pondscapes of Charlotte) for one Mr. Tuttle.

The client was an avid hiker who spent his early years climbing mountains and seeking adventure. Now he lives in a 55+ community with his wife on the East Coast. He missed the Pacific Northwest, where he was originally from, and was tired of being stuck at home. However, like most retirees, Mr. Tuttle was on a budget. Blocksom had the perfect economical elixir in mind.

“This waterfall was built to help subdue his longing for nature and adventure,” Blocksom said. “He now spends time by the waterfall with his wife reminiscing about the past.”

Peace of mind without breaking the bank — the perfect combination for a truly grateful client.

Winner: Best Pondless – Mike Donas

Best pondless water feature 2023 WATY Mike Donas
Mike Donas is the winner in the pondless category.

Mike Donas, a first-time winner in the contest, owns Donas Outdoor Living, a landscape and hardscape design-build company. His journey into crafting captivating water features commenced in 2020. The inspirational work of two-time Water Artisans of the Year winner Weston Zimmerman of SynkedUP and Tussey Landscaping ignited his passion.

Mike Donas and crew

Crafting outdoor landscaping art is a competitive industry in Western Pennsylvania, but Mike Donas and his team have risen to the top with the construction of this majestic waterfall, which also snagged them their first Water Artisans of the Year nod.

The feature seamlessly blends into the client’s yard, upgrading the property’s landscape profile and curb appeal. Visible from the home’s porch, patio and backyard, the client also wanted to be able to hear the soothing crashing and trickling of water throughout the nearby area.

“(Pondless waterfalls) are great for homes with children because there’s no actual body of water present, which makes them a safe alternative to traditional ponds.” Donas said. “Water is simply recirculated using a water pump and in-ground reservoir.”

“We had a great time creating this and are excited for our next project!” he added.

Winner: Most Naturalistic – Thomas VanAmerongen

Most Naturalistic water feature 2023 WATY VanAmerongen
Thomas VanAmerongen is the winner in the most naturalistic category.
Thomas VanAmerongen

Thomas VanAmerongen is the owner of Niagara Waterscapes of Ontario, Canada. He specializes in creating natural ponds, waterfalls and fountains to bring out the natural beauty on any property. Known for attention to detail that accentuates the naturalistic effects in all its projects, this small business won the Water Artisan Award for the first time.

This ecosystem pond, which measures 11 by 16 feet, comes across as a centuries-old, naturally occurring rockscape sculpted by free-flowing water. Two streams are recessed into the berm — one quiet and the other rushing its way back and forth, eventually dropping back into the pond. The constant bustle of activity is quite the marvel for this feature, which requires a surprisingly minimal amount of upkeep.

“This is what the water-gardening world is all about,” builder Thomas VanAmerongen said. “The way we design and install our low-maintenance water features makes it so anyone can … enjoy all the water-gardening benefits!”

A mixture of large and small weathered limestone boulders create both the crashing waterfalls and the vibrant pond. VanAmerongen and his team added moss to the rocks to meld them together, making it seem like this feature had been there forever.

Check out the runners-up here.

Learn more about our judges.

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